Leslie Alic Craven

Leslie Alic Craven

Leslie Alic Craven, No. 7/511
New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron
Died of wounds, 3 October 1918

Born in 1894 in Grovetown, near Blenheim, Leslie Craven was the fourth of Margaret and Alexander Craven’s five children. He was educated at Grovetown School and Marlborough High School. A dedicated pupil, he had passed the exam for university entrance and was working as a teaching assistant at Grovetown School when war broke out in August 1914.

Keen to serve, 20-year-old Leslie promptly applied for a leave of absence from the education board. Permission was granted and he left New Zealand with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in October 1914. Their destination was initially unknown, but they soon arrived in Egypt, and Leslie, posted to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles as a trooper, took the opportunity to see the sights.   

In May 1915 the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was called into action as reinforcements at Gallipoli. Despite the harsh conditions and brutal nature of the fighting, Leslie made it through the campaign, receiving a promotion to corporal shortly before the evacuation. The following year the Mounted Rifles became part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) tasked with fighting the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. Leslie continued to thrive, being promoted to second lieutenant and transferring to the Machine Gun Squadron.

In March 1917, having succeeded in pushing Ottoman forces from the Sinai Peninsula, the EEF turned its attention to Gaza, a town on the Palestine border. On 17 April 1917, a few weeks after their first, failed, attempt, the EEF launched a second attack on Gaza. On the third day of the battle, Leslie, now a lieutenant, took his guns into action over exposed ground while under heavy fire and held off an enemy attack. He was awarded a Military Cross for his efforts, but it was to be his last battle. Late in the day he was severely wounded, sustaining injuries to his spine and chest.

Leslie spent the next seven months in hospital before he was stable enough to return home. He arrived in Wellington just before Christmas and was soon transferred to hospital in Blenheim. There he remained until he finally succumbed to his wounds on 3 October 1918. When word of his death was received, flags in Blenheim were flown at half-mast in his memory. Leslie was given a military funeral and buried in Omaka Cemetery in Blenheim. He is remembered on the Grovetown war memorial.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph – Leslie Craven

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record – Leslie Craven

'Marlborough teachers', Marlborough Express, 11 August 1914, p. 3

'Personal', Marlborough Express, 4 August 1917, p. 4

'Home for Xmas', Dominion, 24 December 1917, p. 6

‘Death’, Marlborough Express, 3 October 1918, p. 4

'The Supreme Sacrifice', Marlborough Express, 3 October 1918, p. 4

'Personal', Marlborough Express, 7 October 1918, p. 4

Marlborough College Roll of Honour

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Guy Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, Whitcombe & Tombs, Auckland et al., 1922

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